health

Paradigm shift in UAE health care

Cadaver organ transplants, 3D printing nanotechnology and sensors to monitor patients are poised to be the norm

20:00 December 26, 2017
The trauma centre

Dubai: The year 2017 has proved to be a watershed year for the health-care sector in the UAE as it witnessed the first multiorgan cadaver transplant that conformed to the letter and spirit of the new cadaver donor regulations of the federal health ministry.

Three lives were saved by two cadaver kidney transplants and one full heart transplant from a single UAE donor on December 5 at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The completion of the mandatory health care insurance in Dubai and the Basmah free cancer treatment initiative are milestones achieved this year by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

In Abu Dhabi, the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (Haad) was renamed the Department of Health and a pay-for-quality scheme that was long in the works was also implemented by the department in August. This system linked the payments made to health-care facilities for services and treatment to the level of care they provide. As a consequence, clinics and hospitals that consistently fail to meet minimum standards could have their funding cut.

An anti-childhood obesity drive launched in Abu Dhabi aims to tackle obesity that currently affects 33 per cent.

Some new health initiatives implemented in 2017 are:

Salama: Over 1.4 million Dubai residents now have ‘smart’ medical records owing to the completion of the three-stage Centralised Electronic Medical Record System — Salama — by the DHA in November 2017.

The system not only gives a complete overview on the prevalence of different diseases in the emirate but also provides quick access to records for doctors and patients, facilitating appointments, providing full medical history, including diagnosis, treatment and surgery history.

Salem: The new smart ‘paperless’ system introduced in September 2017 has streamlined mandatory health screening for visa, providing retrieval of records in under a minute. It facilitates the retrieval of the identity of the resident from the General Directorate of Foreigners and Residency Affairs (GDRFA) via a bar code. The resident can then proceed for the health screening and the results are conveyed electronically.

Basmah: It is an initiative for free cancer treatment. In December 2017, the DHA announced this initiative that provides complete insurance cover for three kinds of cancer — breast, colorectal and cervix — for people in the basic health insurance category. This gives unlimited medical treatment coverage scrapping the Dh150,000 maximum ceiling set earlier and it is being hailed as a revolutionary health initiative.

 In 2016, we had 327,000 medical tourists, which was a 9 per cent increase from 2015. In 2017 too, although the numbers have not been processed, we are close to the world average of achieving a 12 per cent rise in the existing numbers.”

 - Dr Laila Al Marzouqi | Director of the Medical Tourism Board 


Health tourism: Dubai Medical Tourism expanded to change its name to Health Tourism in 2017 to accommodate wellness tourists and make the emirate a health hub. This medical tourism initiative is on track to achieve the target of welcoming 500,000 overseas medical tourists by 2021. Dr Laila Al Marzouqi, director of the Medical Tourism Board, told Gulf News: “In 2016, we had 327,000 medical tourists which was a nine per cent increase from 2015. In 2017 too, although the numbers have not been processed, we are close to the world average of achieving a 12 per cent rise on the existing numbers.”

Referral: The Department of Health in Abu Dhabi now requires patients to seek a doctor’s referral before they can visit another doctor in the same speciality within 21 days of the first outpatient visit which will not only bring better quality of treatment and remove any confusions that are caused by multiple diagnoses from doctors.

Looking ahead

Health care to go hi-tech

Heart-Safe City: Dubai plans to become one of the top heart-safe cities by 2020 by tackling cases of sudden cardiac arrest (SA) efficiently, saving thousands of lives. It launched the campaign in 2016 and in 2018, it aims to train about 100,000 people in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The current survival rate due to SCA is 64 per cent which is only restricted to the city of Copenhagen, while Seattle has a 62 per cent survival rate. Dubai intends to achieve 65 per cent survival rate which will be perfected by 2020 but the work continues in training people, augmenting the availability of defibrillators and connecting these paramedics and people via a special app.

The Dubai Health Forum 2018 to be held in January will showcase a plethora of innovative, digital and technology-driven solutions to bring health care to the door step of the individual. These will include the use of nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and digital medicine in genomics and gene coding to tackle lifestyle diseases and tailor-making cures to highlight the value of personalised medicine, conducting robotic long-distance surgeries, recalling all patient records digitally and also integrating the medical record system, use of smart technology in monitoring geriatric health with sensors and remote vigilance, use of 3D printing to print medicines, prosthetics for orthopaedics and dental use and also for simulating difficult surgeries.

In 2018, the Ministry of Health and Prevention will launch its new revolutionary diabetes medication which will be administered via a matchstick-like titanium device to be placed under the skin. This was announced by the ministry in October 2017. Instead of daily pills or insulin injections, the patient will require to have medicine injected once in six months and this will in turn regulate the Glucagon Like Peptide (GLP-1) hormone in the intestine that is impaired in diabetics and does not let them experience the feeling of fullness.

Hiring more health care staff

The Department of Health in Abu Dhabi will step up community engagement next year with a major focus on reducing obesity, and preventing injuries, among children, Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri, director of public health, told Gulf News.

The public health-care facilities will hire nearly 2,000 more nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in a bid to increase nurse-to-patient ratios in line with the international standards.

National transplant programme expansion: The Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi that carried out the pioneering cadaver heart and kidney transplants on December 5 is now in a state of full preparedness to conduct heart, liver, kidney and lung transplants from single donor cadaver organs in 2018. Dr Rakesh Suri, acting CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, told Gulf News: “It took us months to put the systems, processes and equipment in place to carry out the transplants in 2017. We now intend to expand this programme and have a recipient waiting list in place with our transplant teams ready to carry out the transplants which are reliant on the identification of donors.”

By the numbers

94 per cent of Dubai residents under mandatory health-care insurance cover by the end of 2017

2,000 more nurses, midwives and allied health professionals to be recruited by the Department of Health, Abu Dhabi

In a major obesity-control drive, children’s average body mass index to be reduced by 15 per cent by 2020

Physical activity of children to be increased by 15 per cent

Salama Electronic Medical Record System has created smart records of over 1.4 million people in Dubai in 2017

Over 350,000 medical tourists arrived in Dubai for health tourism in 2017